Archive for the ‘Background’ Category

PLM Solutions, Openness and the Aras Business Model

September 12, 2012

MarcL: Aside from the Aras technology, maybe you can explain a bit more about the Aras business model and the Aras solution suite?

Peter Schroer:

Peter Schroer Aras CEO

Peter Schroer, Aras CEO & Founder

In 2007, Aras took a unique position in the PLM market by adopting an open source business model.   What we’re doing is bringing a Red Hat (NYSE: RHT) business format to the PLM market: get rid of the license costs and just offer enterprise subscriptions. It’s a big advantage for your company for a number of reasons:

Subscription-only gets rid of the big up-front PLM license cost (capex),

It reduces your Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) which means you get a greater ROI and achieve it faster, and

It’s a more balanced relationship where you’re not forced to take on disproportionate risk before you even start implementing.

How we make money

Aras distributes its software without license fees, and earns revenues from optional subscription packages that are similar to the maintenance contracts required by other enterprise software products except with significantly more benefits such as free upgrade services no matter how much you customize – I don’t know any other enterprise software companies that are doing this… it’s a major benefit for customers and commitment on our part.

The Aras subscription gets rid of PLM user and module license fees reducing the risk of acquiring an enterprise PLM system,       and it provides us/Aras with a profitable recurring revenue model.

What we provide OOTB

We have developed a number of solutions ourselves which are included in the initial download of Aras Innovator. These make up our out-of-the-box PLM solution suite.   Our OOTB solutions are similar in scope, scale and depth to the OOTB solutions that come with a Windchill or MatrixOne.  However, our PLM solutions are aligned tightly with industry standards such as ISO, PMI, and CMII. If these standards fit your company’s way of doing business, then the Aras is an “install this morning and start using this afternoon” PLM system.

How we offer more

The corporate community of companies that run Aras, users and partners, what we call the Aras community, has also developed dozens of other solutions on the same Aras Innovator platform framework, and your company is able to take advantage of these solutions for new PLM innovations, best practices and value added enhancements. These are available on the Aras project site if they are open source or from an Aras ISV partner if they are commercial solutions (meaning apps you have to pay for).

Why this all matters to you

The purpose of the Aras project site is to provide an online area where user-driven innovation can occur. We are creating an environment where companies like yours can post ideas, share best practices and take action to transform your business.

We are encouraging secure, self-sufficient collaborative development on PLM solutions because we believe that the next generation of innovation in PLM will come from people like you at the millions of companies around the world that use PLM software every day.

We also believe that your corporate processes are unique and changing constantly thru continuous improvement. And it’s those special practices that make your company competitive. Your company has to be in control of your own destiny and that’s what we are offering.

At the end of the day, what we’re doing is providing your business with a whole series of OOTB PLM solutions on an advanced PLM platform and we use a subscription-only format that’s more cost effective. And we’ve made it highly scalable, flexible and extensible so your company can innovate for new advantages over your competition… we think that just makes sense. In fact, we believe it’s a fundamental necessity and the future of global business.

For more info on this see Open PLM – The Future of Enterprise Product Lifecycle Management (free logon needed) and here’s some more about our commitment to an open business model and how Aras is Different or these videos from my presentation at the Aras ACE International conference.

Aras Innovator, High Level Architecture Description

February 27, 2012

 

MarcL: Can you give a basic high-level architecture overview of Aras Innovator covering networking, deployment, security, vaulting, customizing, integrations and other basic info to help understand the technology at a conceptual level?

Aras PLM Solution Studio

Aras Innovator Solution Studio

Peter Schroer:

Aras Innovator is a 100% web services architecture based on open web standards.

The architecture is naturally distributed, and supports implementations ranging from a single server to hundreds of distributed servers.

 

Aras on the Network

Aras Innovator is a 100% Web application tuned to minimize web traffic and network bandwidth requirements for global WAN deployments.

Aras Innovator is tested and certified for acceptable user performance in WAN’s with less than 250ms latency.

In networks with unreliable connectivity or latency > 250ms,       the architecture can be partitioned into multiple separate instances of meta-data and file vaults, with robust logic for moving product data between instances on an as-needed or scheduled rate.

Aras is committed to an open architecture and open standards.      All connections from client-to-server are XML / SOAP and HTTP on Port 80 and HTTPS on Port 443 so the system is ideally suited for secure collaboration across corporate firewalls.

 

Aras Client Approach

Aras Innovator’s out-of-the-box client is a browser application.  This can be used within the firewall or from outside the firewall (Aras customers include the US Army, US Air Force, Lockheed Martin, etc    all connections and data access controls meet the military-grade security requirements of these customers).

As a 100% web-based application there are no client software installations required, and to be clear, all of the PLM system functionality for end-users, administrators and developers is available through the graphical web browser client out-of-the-box.

All connections to the core Aras Innovator web services (either through the client or integrations) are authenticated against internal controls or your company’s Active-Directory / LDAP authentication.

This results in a secure connection for employees inside the building, employees while traveling, and suppliers, customers and business partners.

All user and programmatic access is authenticated, and the user account is mapped to the roles, groups, and data access rights that are appropriate.

Every class of user that logs on to the PLM will see different data, different forms, and different processes appropriate to their roles and permissions.

As a 100% web-based application it is very easy to extend the PLM system to include external users, so that they are participating directly in business workflows, and interacting directly with product structure data with need-to-know level access and visibility.

 

Distributed & Replicated File Vaulting with Aras

Aras Innovator has a single logical vault abstraction so that all files appeared to be stored in a single vault to end-users.

The physical implementation of the vault server supports both distributed and replicated vaulting of any file-based data.

Aras has many customers with global deployments, and the use of Replicated vaulting ensures that files are located as close to the correct end-users as possible.

 

Customizing in Aras

Aras PLM Life Cycle Map

Aras Innovator Life Cycle "State Model" Map

The Aras Innovator architecture is object oriented, with a simple abstraction that allows non-Ph D IT personnel to be efficient in modifying the system.

We call this process Modeling, and it uses a very simple drag-and-drop graphical metaphor for describing the forms, data, rules and processes that are desired in the production system.

The modeling engine executes directly from this model, meaning that on-going changes over time can be made in real-time, by people that have the appropriate level of permissions.

 

Aras Deployment Environments

While changes can be in a running production system, the Aras recommended practice is to install a minimum of 3 Aras Innovator instances:  Development, Test-Staging and Production.

The Aras modeling language is expressed 100% in XML, and tools are provided for migrating new solutions, or solution changes from one system to another.

Your company is able to develop new ideas, forms, processes, data models, etc. within a development instance of Aras Innovator (can be installed on a laptop for example).

Import those models into a Test instance for regression testing and user acceptance testing.

The same models are then imported into the production server, and the production server dynamically re-configures itself to reflect the new and modified solutions.

This technology is unique to Aras, and is one of the primary reasons that Aras Innovator gets selected for complex, large scale PLM deployments.

 

Enterprise Integrations to Legacy Systems with Aras

Most enterprise integrations to existing legacy systems are implemented as pure Web services connections, either point-to-point or with an ESB or EAI broker such as SAP XI/PI, Oracle Fusion or Microsoft BizTalk for example or using Federation.

Older legacy systems that are not Web Services enabled are integrated using any of the tools in the Microsoft .NET environment (ADO, ODBC, API’s, etc) or through old-school file exchange.

Aras, the company

February 24, 2012

MarcL: People ask all the time, “How can Aras be successful up against such large PLM competitors?”  Maybe you can provide some background on Aras the company?

Peter Schroer:

aras corp

the "A" is for Attitude

I have been in PLM my entire career as an end user, manager, architecture and executive, and I started Aras with a singular focus – to provide the best PLM system for complex processes.

I incorporated Aras Corporation in March 2000, and chose the Boston area because of its PLM talent base and history.

I wanted to be able to hire the best and brightest in the industry and I knew that this was the place to be to attract leading PLM/PDM technologists and execs.

Today, our global headquarters is in Andover Mass (north of Boston) and we have people from across the industry including ComputerVision, Eigner+Partner, MatrixOne (now part of Dassault), Oracle-Agile, PTC, Siemens PLM Software (UGS-Unigraphics-SDRC), Workgroup Solutions and others.

We tend to hire experienced people, people with over 10 years in the PLM/PDM industry and prior experience managing PLM-related processes at an ‘end-user’ company.    And we pay special attention to attitude.       In fact, I like to say that the “A” is for Attitude.

We run a demanding, high-energy environment.   It’s not for everyone.   But for people that want to be challenged, that want to really innovate and get things done, I think we’ve created a great place to work, grow, develop and succeed.

A lot of people at Aras have families with kids, including me, and we’ve put in place a lot of flexibility to accommodate that work-life balance which I think is important.

From our beginning over a decade ago, I have insisted on a Customer First philosophy built on honesty, integrity and trust. I believe there are a lot of places where those values are sorely lacking.  Aras is not one of them.

We strive to build lasting, long-term relationships with our customers, partners and each other.  I want Aras to be the easiest company in PLM to do business with and the most fair.    We apply a professional management approach to the business, yet we retain our sense of purpose, passion and attitude in everything we do.

We have offices and partnerships around the world and we’re now more than 10 years into it.   We are building Aras to scale.    Its a Delaware C corp with GAAP accounting that’s funded by institutional pe/venture and individual investors.

We take a process-oriented perspective and work hard to systematize all aspects of our global operations     and we use our own software to run the company.  We call it myInnovator, it’s our own installation of Aras Innovator.  More on that in another post.

Every Company’s Processes are Complex, Different and Constantly Changing. (PERIOD)

February 23, 2012
 
MarcL: Can you share a little about the founding vision for Aras, the technology and reasons behind this very different technical approach?

Peter Schroer:

plm-rate-or-change

Success = Ability to Adapt

The founding vision of Aras is that every company has unique and complex data & process models, and that software should be adapted to fit those models, rather than the business compromised to fit the software.

We also firmly believe that healthy companies change, in fact they should be changing frequently to grow, compete and improve.

They are constantly adapting to new market conditions, customer demands, competitive pressures, new technologies, etc.

Aras has invested heavily in a technology architecture that supports real-time customization, using tools and techniques that customers, including the non-IT staff (with permissions of course), can easily use.

Aras has a single platform, the Aras Innovator enterprise application framework.       This framework is a model-based service-oriented architecture (SOA) that is a modern Internet environment with no legacy code.

Our entire framework is n-tier web-based client-server made of 100% web services.  “Model-based” is our own proprietary innovation that uses a real-time modeling engine to define and execute highly scalable, robust enterprise business applications such as PLM.

The key advantage of the Aras Innovator modeling engine is that all complex business application data models and process models are defined in a graphical drag-and-drop user interface, and model changes are processed in real-time.

Aras Innovator is designed from the ground-up to be changed, and any and all changes are supportable and upgradable to future versions of the framework.

This is what I needed when I was at Thermo Electron and Data General, and it’s what the companies I’ve worked with over my career always wished was possible     so, I started Aras and we did it.

What is a PLM alpha? …and are you one?

February 22, 2012

MarcL: Why ‘plm alpha’?

Tim O'Reilly

Tim O'Reilly, definition of an alpha geek

Peter Schroer:
Over the years, I’ve met with thousands of PLM users, project teams and architects. They’ve been from a wide range of industries and locations all over the world.
 
And while each person’s perspective on PLM is different, I find that there are some pretty consistent levels of experience. They’re either first-time PLM novices, experienced PLM veterans or this kind of alpha geek in PLM, sort of a “PLM alpha” for short.
 

As the name implies, these PLM alphas tend to lead the way. They set the standard by which other companies measure PLM success, and are usually the ones that think of new ways to transform their business.   

They’re always on the lookout for new innovations in the field, and are typically the first to apply new technologies.         PLM alphas are great to work with because they combine deep technical competence with an unusually high level of business savvy.

PLM alphas understand that technological breakthroughs occur constantly, and that uncovering the ‘right one’ can create a significant advantage over their competition. They’re not looking for yesterday’s system with some new screens or a dump truck load of unusable features.

Alphas want revolutionary innovation, the kind that typically comes from small groups of highly knowledgeable experts and results in an order of magnitude leap forward.

An alpha knows that advantage is achieved by using something that the other guy doesn’t have. They’re able to independently assess a technology’s merits based on capabilities. PLM alphas want to evaluate, test and validate for themselves because they want hands-on experience.

They want to know with certainty that a new technology is truly revolutionary, and they understand that no amount of customer reference calls will ever provide the depth of insight necessary.     

In fact,       by definition they don’t want something that a lot of other companies have because by that time it’s too late to get the upper hand.

PLM alphas also shy away from success stories, flashy brochures and pretty PowerPoints. They refuse to sit through endless sales presentations because they know that salesmen with slides and magic show demos typically sell snake oil.

They’ve been burned before and aren’t about to let it happen again. Actually, most PLM alphas that I know have been part of knock-down drag-out vendor fights, and have the scars to prove it.      A true PLM alpha takes pride in this.

Most alphas have led multiple PLM implementations, have experience with at least two of the major PLM systems on the market and understand the core capabilities better than the vendor’s own personnel.

They have been down & dirty inside the code. They know every in and out of the data model. They have reached the limits of the system and gone beyond.       They know where each PLM system breaks down, and where they will be forced to customize or compromise.

That level of competence, expertise, experience is typically accompanied by an attitude, a positive attitude that combines confidence and clarity with a healthy serving of curiosity. The PLM alphas that I know are always advocating for the business and taking on new challenges while simultaneously on the lookout for game changers.

They’re busy people. They’re a scarce resource that’s in-demand so they rarely have the time that they’d like to test drive each new technological advancement.

That’s why it’s ‘PLM alpha’       because this is the type of info that these people want to know about Aras and our PLM platform technologies and solutions.

If this sounds like you, we should have the kind of info you’ve been looking for        and if you’re not getting something specific or if you have questions, just post a comment and we’ll get you what you need.

Image from Fear.less

PLM alpha

February 22, 2012
A few weeks ago Oleg Shilovitsky from Beyond PLM met with Peter Schroer, Aras president & founder (and chief architect) for a deep dive on our technology — PLM Architecture Discussion with Peter Schroer of Aras.
peter schroer aras plm

Peter Schroer, Aras

A few hours of tech talk and white boarding is always helpful, but rarely enough to surface the true details that have a profound impact on a technology’s capabilities. So, I promised to figure out a way to get more details out to people who care.

This blog is intended to provide information on the underlying PLM platform, modeling technology and other technical info about Aras Innovator.

Image from Beyond PLM


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